Anxious times inspire another great record from Simon Joyner | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Anxious times inspire another great record from Simon Joyner 

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click to enlarge Simon Joyner

Simon Joyner

Frances Joyner

Simon Joyner has been composing nuanced expositions of loss, longing, and hope since at least 1987. That’s the year he wrote the earliest songs that appear on A Rag of Colts (Gertrude Tapes), a compilation of home demos recorded over 25 years that has just been reissued on vinyl. “Daylight,” from his most recent album, Step Into the Earthquake (Shrimper, 2017), puts the listener in the shoes of someone so deep in denial after losing a loved one that even the sun’s rays yield visions of his dearly departed. Elsewhere on the record he describes the machinations of anxiety in the age of Trump. The barroom poets on “I’m Feeling It Today” wake up to postelection visions of burgeoning bigotry and authoritarianism that are way worse than the usual hangover. On most of the album his band the Ghosts, a shifting assemblage of Nebraska-based musicians, sets these tales to arrangements reminiscent of early electric Dylan. But Joyner breaks new-to-him ground on the cathartic side-long closer, “I Dreamed I Saw Lou Reed Last Night,” which opens with field recordings of him trying to coax music out of a piano that was demolished when a tornado wrecked his barn before cutting to the band noisily bearing down on a riff that’s close kin to the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for My Man.” Joyner begins the latter by relating an imagined conversation with his longtime hero about showbiz ethics, then uses lyrics borrowed from Woody Guthrie and Yoko Ono to steer the song into a howling protest against racially motivated murder and a country willing to tolerate it. Joyner is touring with a five-piece edition of the Ghosts and will play a fair bit of Earthquake as well as songs from throughout his career.   v

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